Spending One Day In Puntarenas, Costa Rica (The Ultimate Self-Tour Guide)

Experiencing all the pleasures of Puntarenas in just one day depends on your budget and interests. I suggest starting your day by strolling along the Tourist Walk, where you can see local art, grab some food, and try the famous “Churchills.” There are concerts and parades on the beaches. There are wildlife hikes and sanctuaries to visit. And if you’d rather not plan everything yourself, you can pay for a full-day tour that takes you to all the main spots in Puntarenas.

Puntarenas is located between San Jose and the famous beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s a top weekend destination for Costa Ricans and a regular stop for travelers passing through, so you’ll likely only have a day in this port city. 

The good news is that you can still enjoy the local atmosphere and experience this destination to the fullest. 

In this article, I will walk you through the various activities, places to go, and things to do in one day in Puntarenas. By the time you’ve done all of them, it would be safe to conclude that you’ve experienced the city. 

And if you have the money to spend and want to avoid the brainwork, I have also recommended a few full-day tour options in Puntarenas that are actually worth trying. 

Key Takeaways

  • The way you have the most fun in Puntarenas in just one day depends on where you stay, how much money you have to spend, and what you like to do. 
  • In the morning, start your day with a walk along the Tourists’ Walk, have breakfast in kiosks, and then visit the Historical Marine Museum or Casa de la Cultura.
  • In the afternoon, nearby mountains offer tours to waterfalls, trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities like ziplining and safaris.
  • End the day by heading back to the port city for an evening of delicious local seafood in a sunset restaurant (Gabriella’s Steak Seafood & Pasta) or enjoying live music and partying in a club (Gallina E Palo Bar).
  • Some of the best accommodation options in Puntarenas include Hotel La Punta, Hotel Tioga, Puerto Azul Resort & Club Nautico, and Clandestino Beach Resorts.

How to Spend One Day Experiencing Puntarenas

First things first: How you start and end your day depends on where exactly you stay at Puntarenas. Traveling long distances after touring around the seaside town can be a hassle, not to mention the safety concerns. 

Therefore, I have purposefully kept my recommendations neutral to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they are staying in Puntarenas, can find the places to visit and activities convenient.

In the morning (7 a.m.–12 p.m.),

You can start the morning by strolling along the Paseo de Los Turistas (Tourists’ Walk), a large path near the coast, depending on where you’re staying.

Why? Well, you can enjoy the refreshing air in the morning while discovering lots of shops, places to buy souvenirs, and outdoor restaurants where you can grab a local breakfast like gallo pinto.

Depending on what tickles your fancy, this could take about an hour or two.

From the pedestrian boulevard, check out the Historical Marine Museum of Puntarenas to learn about the city’s history with the sea, its nature, and the animals in the sea nearby. 

  • The museum is located in the former Plaza police headquarters building in downtown Puntarenas.
  • Telephone: +(506) 2661-5272

I recommend this activity, especially if it’s your first time visiting Puntarenas; what’s better for the first day than knowing about the land you’re in? One hour would be enough for this. 

You can see local art displays at Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) between 10 and 12 p.m.

  • Location: Avenida Centenario, Provincia de Puntarenas, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Contact: +506 2661 1394

If you don’t want to move around too much in the morning, you can start your day by visiting a nice coffee restaurant and enjoying the ambiance until noon. For this reason, I recommend Graffiti Restro Cafe + Wine Bar.

You can also read this separate article, where I recommend other interesting things to do in Puntarenas at different times of the day. 

In the afternoon (1 pm–5 pm),

Even though there aren’t many things to do in the city by the port, the mountains nearby have plenty to offer. 

There are many tours leaving the port city every afternoon. They can take you to see waterfalls, rivers, hiking trails, and animals. 

If you like excitement, you can try a zipline tour. You’ll glide through the air and see impressive waterfalls and bays. You might even get to rappel down a cliff and swim in a natural pool. 

If you want to go without a tour package, these are the best zipline and aerial adventure parks in Puntarenas:

  1. Thumbs Up Tours 
  2. Odyssey Tours Costa Rica.
  3. Tratursa.
  4. Canopy Mal Pais.

Or, if you love animals, you can go on a safari along the Tarcoles River to spot crocodiles and birds.

How do I get there by car? Once you reach the Puntarenas police station, head 2 kilometers north to our entrance on the right. From Tarcoles, Provincia de Puntarenas, Tarcoles, 61102, Costa Rica

In the evening (6 p.m.–11 p.m.), Puntarenas Nightlife 

After the tour, the sun gradually sets, and your one-day trip is coming to an end.

Head back to the port city in the evening and treat yourself to delicious local seafood. Since it’s evening, pick a restaurant close to the beach that offers a sunset view. 

I totally recommend Gabriella’s Steak, Seafood, and Pasta restaurant. It’s one of the best places to enjoy the freshest fish, clams, conch, and shrimp straight from the Gulf of Nicoya, all while taking in views of the ocean. 

And since the town sits on a spit facing west, you’ll be sure not to miss the beautiful sunset.

If you’re in for partying, it’s unfortunate that Puntarenas doesn’t have a nightlife as vibrant as Jaco, Tamarindo, San Jose, and so on. 

However, there are still places like Gallina E Palo Bar, Stam Cafe, and Bar La Bomba where you can enjoy lively night parties and drinks.

Want to avoid the headache of planning? Try these full-day Puntarenas tours. 

Instead of planning everything yourself from morning to night, consider paying for a full-day tour in Puntarenas. 

They take care of all the details, so you can just relax and enjoy. Whether you like adventure, nature, or culture, there’s something for you. 

These tour packages allow you to zip through the jungle, kayak with dolphins, explore villages, or taste local food. It’s a hassle-free way to have fun and see the best of Puntarenas in a day, so long as you can afford the tour fee. 

Here are some of the best options: 

1. Puntarenas Shore Excursion: Rainforest Hanging Bridges, Skywalk Tours, and Boat Tours

  • Tour Company: Greenway Nature Day Tours
  • Cost: From $125 per adult
  • Book on Viator

This is a full-day tour in Puntarenas that starts at 8 a.m. You will embark on the Villa Lapas Sky Way tour, a 1.5-mile journey through the rainforest. 

Then, you will walk across five suspended bridges, each over 180 feet high and 300 feet long.

You will explore the lush vegetation and spot diverse wildlife. The wildlife tour lasts about an hour and includes some steep areas. 

Finally, stop at the Villa Lapas Eco Hotel for tropical fruits and iced tea. Then, head to the Tarcoles River for a boat tour to see more wildlife.

2. Private Sightseeing Tours of Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens

  • Tour Company: Syltravel Day Tours
  • Cost: From $285 per adult
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Book on Viator

Discover Costa Rica’s amazing landscapes on this private tour. They’ll pick you up from your hotel and take you to two incredible places away from the crowds.

First, you’ll visit Poas Volcano, a vast, active volcano. You’ll see steam coming out of it and feel its power. Then, you’ll go to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a peaceful place with beautiful waterfalls and lots of colorful birds. A private guide will show you around.

The tour provides lunch, bottled water, and private transportation. The package includes admission fees to both locations.

3. Puntarenas Zipline Canopy and Crocodile Boat Tour. Shore Excursion from Puntarenas

  • Tour Company: Greenway Nature Day Tours
  • Cost: From $135 per adult
  • Duration: 6 hours.
  • Ages 7–75, maximum of 200 per group
  • Book on Viator

Experience an exciting day tour from Puntarenas to Carara Adventure Park. You will travel in a comfy minivan to this private reserve, filled with lush rainforest and stunning ocean views.

Feel the thrill of the rainforest canopy as you zip down 12 cables and cross three hanging bridges. Then, hop on a 1-hour boat cruise to spot crocodiles, monkeys, and more wildlife.

Your tour includes bottled water, snacks, and admission. Enjoy insightful commentary from your guide throughout the adventure. Plus, they’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel or port.

Wrapping Up

San Jose and the renowned Nicoya Peninsula beaches sandwich Puntarenas. It’s a favorite weekend getaway for Costa Ricans and a common stop for travelers. If you’ve only got a day here, don’t worry!

You can still soak up the local vibe and make the most of your time in this port city.

And I hope this guide has inspired you to do activities during your one-day stay.

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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